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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


tantric painting

Driving on the Parkway after dark is an interesting challenge concerning the deer that see headlights and think they're two floating lights, not imagining it is a ton of steel, plastic and glass in motion. Yet dogs get it and cats get it. Bobcats get it. Possums don't appear to get it. I used to drive like these critters were in the way. That has changed. I finally got it that I'm driving through their world. They know those smelly, noisy four-footed gigantic beetles stay on that track where nothing grows. They stay off it during the day. But at night, it doesn't register that those lights are the same as the giant beetles that zoom by during the day. Deer in the headlights makes a good metaphor for the look in the eyes of people working in Japanese and Chinese restaurants when you say something to them not from the menu. It makes me want to leave Japanese and Chinese-to-English phrase books with them. Somebody says, "What time does the bus depart?" and they can see it written in dancing chicken footprints. Maybe cell phones do that now. It's not annoying. It's just dazed people from a culture entirely different from ours, languages entirely different from ours. I'd be dazed in the same way working at a Hardees in some Chinese mountain town too small for a dot in atlases. Somebody say to me, "What time does the bus depart?" I'd probably say, "Ohio gozymas," that poorly. I can't help but be sympathetic with these people making a living in a place where everybody looks down on them, and they're proud people, just like we are.

There is so much to be sympathetic about, I'm wondering if sympathetic concern might be an affectation we learned somewhere along the way thinking it was real. I think it might have been "real" in a tribal setting where everyone is intimately connected with everyone else, where nobody has their own business. Sympathy seems like it is right for people nearby we know well, but to hear about an earthquake in China where a school caves in on the kids, the grief of the parents, I feel for everyone concerned; sympathy is what I feel. Then the Japanese tsunami nuclear disaster. It messed up a lot of people, dogs and cats. I'm sympathetic. Every day on the news children shattered by landmines, "smart bombs" killing indiscriminately, tormenting twice that many with pain, grief and agony. I see pictures of little black refugee kids like skeletons and I feel sympathetic. I want to help. I can't do anything. Don't have money to send, can't go volunteer in a refugee camp, and if I did have the time and money, there'd be no end to it, running from one rescue mission to the next, all of them too late.

It's hard to pull in from not feeling a twang when I hear news stories about other people's misfortunes. But I also need my energy here where I am, in the world I live in, with the people I live among. That's where my sympathy belongs, where I need it first. It's hard not to avoid being wrenched every day by somebody's agony someplace in the world. It seems like paying too much attention to the agonies out in the world on tv, in other countries, albeit artificially, diminishes attention that is needed at home. It's a narrow line to walk, a razor's edge even, finding how to be aware, even prayerful, of what is happening around, but with the dispassion of knowing it is outside my jurisdiction. That's somebody else's immediate concern. I have plenty of immediate concern here at home. In my spiritual path I've come to see that everyday life is where it's at. I have learned I find much more interesting people in the ones I already know, the people who live nearby, the people I see wherever I go in my world. I'd rather know the people I know of these mountains than somebody famous in NY or LA or anywhere I am not. The pop world keeps us believing that wherever we are is not where It is at. It is always somewhere I am not.

Yesterday, talking with my friend Justin about the thrill I had from a full week of focus on one theme, writing wide-open, four straight days from getting up to turning in, fingers dancing on the keyboard, Caterpillar frustrated because she couldn't hold my attention for more than a few seconds at a time, a touch on top of her head that says I'd love to pet you, but I'm involved in the part of the human mind that cats don't have, the forebrain, thinking abstractly, putting thoughts together to tell a story. I believe she reads me telepathically, which makes me wonder what she sees when I'm thinking about a fiddler I've never met in a time I didn't know first-hand. She went off to her bed seeing there was no penetrating the peasoup fog. Four straight days of total focus on one theme and a full day of rewriting, writing new paragraphs to fill in blanks, then two more days of rereading and clarifying sentences that needed it, changing words, even nit picky words, like changing an in to a with. These sorts of details matter. I'm still in the charm of that fixation. Heard five minutes of news once a day to keep abreast of Syria and Turkey. Finally, today I've reached the place that rereading as editor has become boring. I want to do something else.

Justin told me I get the same thrill out of writing and painting that he gets out of hunting. He said, "Hunting is better than sex. Sex is the same over and over. Hunting is different every time." We talked about the thrill of attention focused absolutely for a period of time. He sits in a deer blind or in a stand in a tree for hours without moving or making a sound. He takes his four year old boy with him, teaches him silence and patience. He takes his five year old girl, too, and teachers her the same. Justin hunts to eat. He gets Welter Ham in Whitehead to butcher his kills like beef and keeps it in the freezer. At the moment he has the head of the last buck he shot with a nice rack in the freezer waiting to be mounted. Justin also takes Crystal hunting. She's good. He aims to put both kids through gun safety courses where they can learn more than he could teach them. He could teach them plenty, but the course does it better. Also, like in learning to drive from somebody besides parents, there is no parental tension in the way. I cannot allow myself to kill even the spiders in the window corners. Yet I know they're about killing to eat. Everything living kills to eat. Chickens eat grasshoppers. Cats eat mice. Coyotes eat cats. We eat lunchmeat from the grocery store, steaks, hotdogs, bacon, chicken nuggets, and we don't kill anything. No dragging in a dead squirrel, peeling the skin off, etc. Justin was taught to hunt before he started school. I said of the baby, Vada, "She'll have her first buck when she's six." Justin said, "Before that."

In my own Way, I have no problem with killing for food. I don't even have a problem with somebody making a kill and leaving it for the coyotes. Who has a problem with road kill? Same difference. I will slow down to a stop if necessary to avoid hitting a critter of the night. I've had raccoons, possums, cats, dogs, squirrels, rabbits dart under the tire from the side, no time to even lift foot from gas pedal. I don't like it, but remind myself in God's way of seeing that it is a blink of an eye leaving the body suddenly. I say a prayer for the being's soul every time I nail one or see one on the road. I can't help but see them people like us, consciousness in a particular form. They're in the same realm of consciousness as our dogs and cats. If they were tame, we could connect with them like we do with our pets. I do enough killing without intent just from living in the world as it is now, driving everywhere we go. It's because I see the four-leggeds as my friends I haven't met yet. I think of them as the true Innocents in our world. Humanity mows over them like they're nothing. I have a hard time seeing a deer hanging by back feet, guts tumbling out on the floor. I can't do that. It has surely come to me from previous lifetimes, my never wanting to hurt anybody or anything. I never learned to want to hurt somebody in a fight and never learned to want to see one of God's baby's die by my intent. I don't believe I have the right when I'm not needing the food. That's when I join the food chain, saying a prayer of gratitude for the soul of each one killed. I make sure my hunter friends understand my reticence about killing is for myself and does not extend beyond myself. I admire their skills and enjoy hearing their hunting stories. I can't help but think there is enough killing going around; I don't need to participate in it just because it's going around. And deer aren't going to get overpopulated because I'm not killing them.

I'll go on feeding my friend the possum that lives under the house. I put out extra seeds on the ground by the feeders for the red squirrels that came marauding. I feed them and they leave the bird feeders alone. I decided when I put the feeders out that I would accept whoever in the neighborhood came in to the food kitchen. It's a good shelter for the small birds out of sight of the hawks and in such a thicket the hawks are unable to maneuver. Chipmunks dart through the leaves on the ground and become invisible when they're still. I have a small peaceable kingdom inside my circle of trees around the house. The gray squirrel that lives across the road drops in from time to time. Putting out enough for the bluejays too, they don't bully the other birds. This is the world I want to live in. Can't do anything about it beyond my property line. Out there in the rest of the world it is going to be what it is going to be. In here, in my circle of trees the critters have a free food kitchen with seeds they like. It's unrealistic to want the peace I want for myself for everybody else in the world. That's their choice, and their business. In my world the birds sing and the pair of red squirrels chase each other round and round like kittens.


Friday, November 23, 2012


art wooten (left) with the stanley brothers

I've been gone the last six days while being right here. Fell into an obsessive fit of writing a ten page essay on Pine Swamp fiddler Howard Joines and his music world in the county. At the beginning, I wanted to write about his music, to get a feel for the music he played and how he played, his musician friends and accomplices, the time, the place. I had plenty of biographical information, but I don't like something written about a musician or a painter that is answers to test questions only. I wanted to write something that dove into his music and his world of music, attempting to find the musician within, not just dates and data. I wasn't sure I could do that. It looked like a very tall order. I started writing thinking I was taking the biographical way. Then right away I wanted to put him in the context of the music world he was in. That grew and I found as the writing was reaching for the feel of what he did with a fiddle, I was also telling of the time bluegrass came into mountain music. At the Fiddle and Plow show last Friday night, talking with Karl Cooler of Mountain Roads Recordings before the show, he told me he recommends my blog writings on regional music to people looking for something to help them understand mountain music. He said I have an ability to give the sense and feel of the music in a way readers can get. I was happy to hear that. It's one of those things that has to come from outside myself, because I can't see something that subjective.

The music Friday night lifted me onto a wave that felt like a surfer standing up on the surfboard at Waikiki or some exotic surf place like Durban, South Africa, where you can catch a giant wave and ride it a long time. I'm still on the wave from a week ago. By the end of Saturday I knew I was on a wave and decided to make it productive. It was a new moon. I'd been aiming to write something about fiddler Howard Joines for three years with several pages of notes made from conversation with his son, Richard, plenty of biographical and family information. I set out to start writing a couple times, but it never took. Knowing myself somewhat and how I approach things, I decided to forget about it, keep on reading the information over, absorbing it, getting it into my subconscious where I let it gestate with everything else in my head. I let it swim in the back of my mind with the confidence that when ready it would emerge of its own timing.  On the previous Wednesday I was talking with a local man, asking him about Howard as a fiddler. His one-sentence answer inspired me so much that I started the writing with his sentence. His sentence was the door I needed. When I saw that on Saturday, I knew this was it. I was on the wave, didn't know how long it would last, and went for it. Four days of all day writing fast as mind allowed. Then a day of rewriting, writing new paragraphs to fill in blanks I'd left, then another day of rewriting less extensively, looking to clarity. Made a few phone calls to get accuracy of details since the writing was from imperfect memory.

In the writing, I allowed the writing itself to lead the way. A few times I wondered if I really wanted to go there, but did, followed it and found a much greater place than I had in the front of my mind. Without seeing it ahead, I managed to tell the story of how bluegrass transformed "old-time," then known as music, almost overnight in the mountains. I found mountain old-time and mountain bluegrass so close to the same thing that the differences amounted to next to nothing. A different kind of banjo. A mandolin. The musicians take "breaks," or solos in jazz terminology. I think in the end what came through was mountain bluegrass was the direction traditional music took. What we call old-time is the stringband music pre-WW2. Bluegrass came and the younger musicians jumped on it. It was the same music, just more demanding musicianship, as much the draw of bluegrass as loving it. Early on, I wasn't aware that I wanted to put Howard in context until I started the writing. Two paragraphs about Art Wooten and I wondered if I wanted to get off that page that much, but it worked in so well it belonged. Howard was a great fiddler. Art was a great fiddler. They were friends in youth learning the fiddle together. Art moved to Kingsport; Howard wanted to live at home with his family. Family was important to Howard Joines. Art took his family with him. Then Bill Monroe made Art Wooten "the first bluegrass fiddler" til the end of time. Art is also the only musician to have recorded with Monroe, Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs, all three the first run of bluegrass bands. 

In the course of the writing, I let the reins go, inspired by Karl Cooler affirming that I really am able to give in words a sense of hearing the music, how it feels, where it hits inside. Jr taught me in the years of our conversations that mountain music is all about feelings. You've heard the saying about somebody plays a piano "by heart." We all know that means without reading notes, from memory. It also means by feeling, as the heart is the seat of feeling, or emotion. They play by feel, heart, not by notes, mind. Mountain music is played by feel only. If it aint played from the heart it aint music. I found him to be right, as he always was in everything he said. Because he never said anything without knowing before he said it there was no bullshit in it. I remember a time in his later years a young guy came to him asking Jr to teach him how to play a banjo. Jr said, "If you can't figure it out on your own, you don't want to play the banjo." It wasn't like he passed more test questions than anybody else, but that he didn't bullshit in any way, not even a fart. He was dead set inside himself against saying anything that could be called bullshit. It's not like everything he said was right, but it was correct in his way of seeing or he wouldn't say it. In a way, it can be said I found my heart in mountain music. I have sat through an entire Ralph Stanley concert with tears of joy running down my face. Ralph Stanley does that to me. Carter Stanley wells up the tears of emotion too. The Carter Family fills me with so much joy it bubbles over in tears. They all sing "from the heart." All their music is from the heart. When the music comes from the heart, it goes to the heart of the listener. Music made from the mind goes to the mind.

Howard Joines's fiddle has a dance of joy in it. His bow has an apparent freedom that allows the music to make it move. All the time in the first half of the writing, I listened to Howard making music with his old-time musician friends on one cd made from a reel-to-reel tape in 1953. Oh it was good. He was a magnificent fiddler. Smooth sound---a smooth sound with guts. He has a clarity that makes his sound refreshing, happy to the ear, and his fiddle often sounds joyous. In the second half I listened to Howard playing bluegrass in 1966 with Jr Maxwell playing bluegrass banjo and Wayne Henderson in his 20s. It was the same music, just in another gear. In the bluegrass is where I really hear the joy in Howard's fiddle. There were times, esp playing Dance All Night With A Bottle In Your Hand that it sounded like Howard stepped aside and let the fiddle and bow do everything without his interference. It's the kind of letting go I don't hear a lot of. I believe that's what is meant by let-go-and-let-God. Just step aside and let it happen. That "it" is an aspect of God. I've come to believe that all art forms are doorways to God within. Like Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven is within. It's not "just over the clouds," though it's there too. But we don't need to go there to find it, because it's in each one of us, all living beings. It's in our hearts, our innermost selves, where mountain music comes from. I'm not saying they don't play from the heart other places, only that it's the rule of thumb in the mountains.

I came out of the experience surprised at what I have learned about mountain music from Jr first, musicians and the music itself. I've read nothing about it. I'm only interested in the living quality of the music as it is played by today's musicians to today's audiences and dancers. We are very different people today from what we were a hundred years ago, and we're also very much the same. Those people then were no different from us except in the gadgets available to them. In matters of the heart there is no difference between us. We wear bluejeans and tshirts, ride motorcycles and pickups, watch NASCAR and football on tv, listen to Rage Against The Machine, smoke reefer and drink beer, carry guns illegally, take sex where we can get it. In the time when old-time was simply called music, it wasn't like we do it now. It was work like hell all week and get drunk on the weekends. All the men carried guns. About all the men drank white liquor. They fox hunted and made music. Their spiritual life was the same Bible stories we have today without the commercial cartooning of the entire Bible over and over continually. They were the tail end of the Age of Fire. The mountains were overtaken by the Age of Electricity all at once. And bluegrass came with it. The mountain people changed, traditional music changed. And, like the people stayed the same, the music stayed the same. It was the same songs, same tunes, just played faster with more complex musicianship. That's a pretty good description of our minds as they are now compared to how their minds went then. We're cranked way up. So our music would be too.


Saturday, November 17, 2012


sandy mason and willard gayheart

There must have been a glow in last night's sky over Woodlawn, Virginia, above Willard Gayheart's frame shop, The Front Porch. For two hours the god of music was present. Awesome is the most overused word since Wow in the Sixties, yet it's still a valid word with its own meaning, appropriate to this moment. Maybe better would be the old-time meaning of the word awful. Today it means terrible, of negative interest. In the old-time way it meant full of awe, something so awe-inspiring it's awful. It's still used in that meaning, like, "the music last night got to me something awful." We say, "an awful lot all the time." The word now has two opposite meanings according to use. I'll just say it was awful, but that sounds too much like offal, and it weren't none of that. Awesome is the word. It was the cd release party for Scott Freeman and Edwin Lacy's new album, 2 CHAIRS NO WAITING. It's a fiddle and banjo album like no other. You can hear some or all of the tunes at the label's website and cds can be ordered through the website. All the cds from Mountain Roads Recordings at Bristol, Tennessee, are present moment mountain music good as it gets.

I arrived a little bit early, and even early the parking area looked like a used car lot. Inside, Willard had to bring up more folding chairs. The place was packed with people anticipating some awesome music. A happy spirit was in the air running through everybody, a friendly atmosphere to step into. I knew about half the people. It's a place where you can speak to somebody you've never met and they don't look at you like you're trying to sell them a grave plot on the moon. Right away I saw Willard was not busy for a few seconds. I went straight to him wanting to show the picture in the digital camera of the new painting of Scott and Edwin. Willard and I are artist friends who share insights with each other. I crack up when I think of the time Willard told me he's not really an artist. Willard is one of the greatest artists I know, right there with his musical partner, Scott Freeman. My artist friends are almost all musicians. Willard makes a beautiful pencil drawing and he plays rhythm guitar with a reputation for keeping perfect rhythm such that the other musicians don't have to think about the rhythm themselves. As a bluegrass singer, Willard has a lifetime of stage experience. He can sing the same song folk style or bluegrass and they're equally beautiful. He writes a good song too. Willard is every bit as satisfying to my ear musically as Doc Watson, and I look way up to Doc Watson. I say Doc here to give you an idea of the measure of my respect for Willard's musical artistry.

When the seven-piece bluegrass chamber orchestra indicated they were ready, everybody sat down in a hurry and all attention went to the band. It was the Siamese Cousins + 5 or Skeeter and the Skidmarks +3. Everybody who played a part on the project was in the band, minus Dori. I didn't get to talk with Scott but a minute when the show was over, and he was in that place musicians are still in for quite awhile after jamming all-out for two hours. I didn't ask about Dori. I'd heard something about she went to Nashville a week or so ago. I took her absence to affirm it, though still not knowing. She has a man in her life now who appears to be the one she's been waiting for without knowing who or if. She has two songs on the project that deserve mention, Gold Watch And Chain she sings just right, and a Gordon Lightfoot song, The Way I Feel. I've been hearing Dori develop her singing voice for the stage the last three years. My thinking is if she has her eye on making a shot for it in Nashville, now is the time. She has a charisma onstage something on the order of Sade's, subtle and smooth without being too smooth.

The band started off with an explosion. Lonesome Road Blues, the first song on the album, blew the roof off the place in the first ten seconds. And the roof never came back, the reason I suspected the sky lit up over Woodlawn. Butch Robins kicked it off, a really good punt, with his bluegrass banjo. Scott Freeman tore up his mandolin and left it in shreds. Steve Lewis came in with his guitar and did some unbelieveable pickin. Brandon Davis played lead guitar too, immediately commanding respect for the music he could get out of that wooden box. Edwin Lacy cut completely loose on his old-time banjo, left mind somewhere else and let the music guide his hands without any mental interference. Willard kept the rhythm going with Sandy Mason on the bass. Sandy sang Dixie Darlin, a song I love to hear her sing. They rocked our world from the first note to the last. They finished after two hours with a request for Orange Blossom Special. In bluegrass it is one of the tunes they call "war horses" in classical music, tunes audiences love to hear and bands get tired of playing. Rocky Top is another. And Duelling Banjos. They didn't pay that any mind. They got it going so hot that people jumped to their feet clapping. Scott played the train on the fiddle and Steve was right there with him doing all he could to destroy every string on his guitar. I love it when the two of them get together like that. It seems like there is no limit to how far they can go.

Scott is such a master mandolin picker that when I hear a mandolin in a Nashville bluegrass band, I hear it in relation to Scott's sound. I've heard several his equal, but none better. Over the last decade, Scott, Steve and Willard caught my ear when Alternate Roots was a band. I freely call Alternate Roots my favorite band for life. When they disbanded I grieved for six months the same as if a really close friend had died. Steve Lewis and Scott pick together such that you know they have the time of their lives doing things with the strings they can't do with anybody else or very few, intuitionally. It's dynamic every time they get together. Scott and Edwin too. Scott and Butch Robins too. Seven master musicians on the stage, people who play incredibly well together. I say the god of music was there last night, because every one of the musicians had a spirit about them, individually and together, everybody lit up in joy. The second song they played after clearing the roof out of the way was Hang Me, a Skeeter and the Skidmarks favorite. It cranked the music up to the next level. And they kept it there througout. Even the ballads had the joyous energy. After Hang Me was Billy In The Lowground, and it was on from there. Steve likes to call it Goat In The Swamp.

At intermission after the first hour when everyone in the audience stood up and turned around, I saw joy beaming out of everybody's face. I knew I was lit up the same. It was a joyous air in the place. Different ones I see there every week, we'd look at each other big-eyed and make a short statement about the music we were experiencing. The music at the Fiddle and Plow show is always worth driving an hour each way for. I could buy a cd with what it costs in gas, and it's better than buying a cd, because I'm hearing my favorite musicians playing twice as long as a cd. Live. In Concert. Last night was special. One Skeeter and the Skidmarks show a couple years ago reached into that place of a joyous musical experience for band and audience together. All the shows are extra good, but these two stand out in my memory for the joy energy in the music. They know how to let the music breathe and they know how to let it run wild. Everything I've said here sounds like overstatement, but it all is understatement. And for any of the ones in the band who might see this, I don't want to give them the big head. I can't reach with words the place their music took me to. On the way home, I stopped to see some friends. I tried to tell them something about it, but all I could do was emote: awesome, amazing, fabulous, unbelieveable, totally incredible, over the top. It degenerated into babble fast, because I was unable to do anything but blabber. So I shut up after hearing myself fumble for words I couldn't find, enough that I was boring myself. This morning I woke up singing Edwin Lacy's Little Black Pony, a song with a story as good-worded as Catfish John.


Friday, November 16, 2012


      jr maxwell by tj worthington

Tonight I'm going to Scott Freeman and Edwin Lacy's cd release party at the Fiddle & Plow show in Woodlawn. The album is 2 CHAIRS NO WAITING. It will be a knock-out show. Steve Lewis will be there with guitar and banjo. Butch Robins will be there with banjo. Willard's rhythm guitar will be there. Probably Mike Gayheart playing bass, or Sandy, or both. I'm hoping Dori will be there. It's going to be some music in the real sense of the word as music. Yesterday I saw Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale dance a waltz in THE LEOPARD. It was a dance, not just moving their feet the way I "dance." This is the difference between music and music the way these guys make it. Their music itself is a dance. They pluck the strings with the same grace of Lancaster and Cardinale swirling over the floor. Their music flows. I'm not saying this makes them better than any others. Only that this is what draws me to be there every Friday night I can make it.

First time I listened to this project, I felt a wringing and twisting inside longing to play it on the Saturday morning radio show that went away when the station was sold out of the community. This is an album I know my listeners would love, and I would love playing it for them. It brings to mind the time I found a cd from a mid Sixties lp of a Galax bluegrass band, Larry Richardson And the Blue Ridge Boys. Buddy Pendleton plays fiddle. He is one of the great fiddlers of the region. Worked at the Floyd post office for 40 years. First time I heard the album was just a few weeks after the radio station shut down. My longing to play it for my listeners was so strong it hurt. I'd have played the whole album straight through. When I play it now it still pains me that I never had a chance to play it for the listeners. Those seven years of the radio show, The Backwoods Beat Music Hour, were part of a seven year cycle that were happy years, which doesn't mean without sorrow. In childhood I was afraid of sorrow, but have come to embrace sorrow the same as joy, a legitimate human emotion that has a hidden joy in it, like joy has a hidden sorrow in it, like light has darkness hidden in it and darkness has light hidden in it. On a scale where joy is at one end and sorrow at the other, I like to think I waver somewhere toward the middle, sometimes wavering all the way over to one side or the other. When I'm in joy I know it's short lived. In sorrow I know it's short lived too.

I have no way of guessing even close to accurately how many people listened to the show. Over the seven years about twenty people spoke to me in the grocery store, here and there, saying they listen. They were the faces I played the music to in my mind's eye. I didn't know if it was two hundred or twenty. It didn't matter. I think of times in the Regular Baptist church meetings when it was only two or three people, Millard Pruitt would quote a verse from the pulpit, when two or three of you are gathered in my name, I will be in the midst thereof. He preached the same as if the house were full and people standing. That made a lot of sense to me. It's not about bigness. It's about the thing itself. I've adopted that thinking for everything I do. In the beginning of this "blog" were three or four views a day. I was ok with that. I wasn't going to advertise. It wasn't about how many. It was about doing it. I wanted to make myself write something every day worth reading. If 3 people find it worth reading, I'm fully satisfied. After three years it's up to over 200 views per day. I am no more satisfied with 200 than with 2. Yet, I felt a mild sense of thrill when it passed 100, then again when it passed 200. It's a thrill because it was unexpected --- a hundred times 2. I don't know who they are except for a few who have contacted me. Now I love my readers like I loved my listeners to the radio show.

The first year with BROC and involved in the Hillbilly Show, Agnes wanted me to be a comic hillbilly mc. I did it one more time, but it was too unsettling having 800 people looking at me. I was not born for the stage. But I had a very strong feeling that all the people looking at me knew me and I only knew a few of them. It told me that perhaps most of the people in the audience have heard the show at least a few times. That's what unsettled me most. I was not prepared for an auditorium full of my listeners. Had no idea that many people listened, at least sometimes. The people in the audience listened when I spoke and I was not ready for that. Yet, it gave me a measure of my listeners and gave them faces. In the beginning, the black mic I spoke into at the radio station seemed as far as my voice went. I was talking to and playing music for the mic. Beyond that I had no clue. Then I stand in front of an auditorium of people and they know me. It blew my mind to smithereens and I did not know how to handle it. Practice night in front of empty seats was comfortable. When the seats had faces, that was another deal. I tend to see people as oceans of consciousness that are really complex from one individual to another. I get 800 oceans of consciousness looking at me like they know me and I'm too overwhelmed to be able to function. After two shows of being freaked out, I asked Agnes to let me pull the curtain ropes, involvement less the freakout.

In this seven year cycle I've been making videos of the music at the Fiddle & Plow to put on youtube, painting mountain musicians and writing here. These are my art forms in this cycle. Yes, I regarded the radio show an art form. I wasn't much at talking, so I kept it brief. Emphasis was totally on the music itself. There is no talking I could do that would be better to listen to than anything recorded in these hills. I'd rather my listeners groove to Gaither Carlton's banjo or fiddle than to put them through anything I'd say other than identifying musician and title, and to mention he was Doc Watson's father in law. I couldn't even do that playing the Carter Family. I love them so much that just mentioning their names choked me up. None of their songs need an introduction of title or anything. I'd play one after the other with tears of joy running down my face, knowing that everyone listening loved what they were hearing at least as much as I did. Carter Family songs have been played and recorded countless times, though I've never heard a version of one of their songs that reaches all the way into my heart like Sara, AP and Maybelle do. Sara's and AP's singing was entirely without emotive expression, like old time church singing, yet the emotion is so powerful that even screaming rockers can't get there. After hearing the Carter Family's Wildwood Flower, there is no other Wildwood Flower. And then there is Ralph and Carter Stanley. Legends of the Clinch Mountains.

This music, mountain music, makes me glad I am where I am every time I hear any of it. The more funky old-timey it is, the more I love it. Tommy Jarrell with his fretless banjo and his fiddle. Fred Cockerham with banjo and fiddle. One of the great albums of all time is Tommy and Fred picking banjo together. It's called Tommy and Fred. It was out of print for a long time. But I'd think by now it would be back in print. It's too good not to be available. And that was the motivation for opening the music store, an outlet for mountain music in the area. Floyd, Virginia, was the closest place. It was a great adventure. I met a lot of wonderful people. Met some new friends. Took up painting mountain musicians. Discovered Old-Time Herald magazine. Discovered a lot of incredible music. Sometimes I get called an expert, but I always remark that I am not an expert, just someone that loves the music. I've learned so much from mountain music and musicians that I can't imagine myself before the learning started. One of the great joys of my life has been playing mountain music to mountain people on an AM station in the mountains, the next county over from WPAQ, the ideal.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


anthony gormley, field, 1991
(I've seen this--they all have faces and they're looking at you)

This was a good day to feel the love for the people of Alleghany County. It started in the coffee shop where this great big feller said, "I'm glad I don't fly." I saw in my mind's eye him flying over like a buzzard and shitting, hoping he was not over me when he did it. I said, "So am I." He didn't know what I meant, and doesn't think enough of me to care what I meant. Fact is, I said it because I knew he didn't care what I meant. He went on talking like I hadn't said anything, like I knew he would. He brings to mind a cousin I grew up with, big man, drives a dump truck, smokes a cigar and can't help but sound like everything he says is bragging. It's a form of ego. But I don't care about that as anything but an identifying set of characteristics. We all operate from ego, some of us do it with a little more finesse than others and some of us are all-out bragging all the time. I've even come to the place where I see language as infinitely complex possibilities for saying, "I want." I've come to believe that's all we ever say when we speak. The Australian Aborigines, before they were slaughtered and subdued, forced into a mold of white-man culture with no place in the culture, said the Creator gave us our voices for singing praises, not for talking. Isn't it so,when all we essentially say is I want. Seems like the best thing would be to say I want one time and then be silent for the rest of one's life. No, we have to say it over and over. "Look at that yellow Camaro with the black stripes on the hood and top!"

Met some people from California, here visiting Mitzi Biggins, an interesting couple from rural northern California, which they said is not so very different from here socially, just uniquely its own culture, like here is its own culture. I was sorry I had to leave once we set to talking. I had the BROC meeting at noon. This happens every time I go into the coffee shop in the morning before lunch with my BROC friends. I set twenty minutes to twelve as the time to leave, quarter til if I'm enjoying conversation. I never leave at twenty minutes til. I twist and squirm inside for five minutes wishing I could stay longer, then have to head out the door. It didn't come to me until later, but when Elgin Hatch, the PhD from California who studied white people, came to my house to interview me in his study of Sparta, he told me before he opened the car door I belong in northern California. Northern California is loaded with people just like me. He affirmed it even more adamantly when he entered the house. Here in the coffee shop was one of my neighbors in spirit, first one I'd ever met.

Then to the Kanpai restaurant, the new Japanese restaurant in town that is slowly catching on. It was strange getting a fortune cookie with a Chinese message in it. China and Japan are not allies. Who cares about that in pop culture? The young Japanese (or Chinese?) waiter came here from New York. He's been here about a year and doesn't get Sparta people at all. He's about like I'd be working at an American restaurant in Tokyo. Though I would want to explore and learn the culture. He's not curious about Sparta people in any way. I said to him, "I see so many Japanese movies that when I come in here I feel like I'm in a Japanese movie." He gave me the ah-so look that says I don't understand what you said, but want you to think I do. He said, "Thank you." In Sparta. We have a Chinese restaurant with Chinese people here from New York. We have four Mexican restaurants with Mexicans from Mexico running them. The one the Anglos go to is American Mexican slathered with cheese and brown bean mush. The other three are for the Mexican community, where you find the actual Mexican food, and where only a few Anglos go, the ones unafraid of being seen with the wrong class of people. Since the Sparta Restaurant went out of business more than 20 years ago, there has not been an American restaurant in Sparta that could make it. Northside and Southside diners have been gone several years. The Anglos are in a Depression and the Mexicans are working steady.

We had our BROC meeting waiting for the meal. It was a lively meeting, as usual, with Agnes Joines the head knocker. Agnes is so full of the life spirit she holds everyone's attention while she's talking. She'll interrupt two of the men she sees talking while she's presiding and tell them to pay attention. It's like a friendly family, a family where nobody quarrels. In that way, I'd say Agnes and Ernest more than likely made a happy family when they had kids in the house. When Agnes gets in your face quarreling, she's done when it's over. She's not in a huff refusing to speak for a day or two. It's never like that. She told me she got in Bob Bamberg's face earlier at the Chamber of Commerce. I know what it's like, she's done it to me. I saw Bob later in the library. I said, "I hear you had an Agnes experience." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Agnes Joines in your face." He broke out laughing, "Oh, Agnes!" It was one of two great honors of my life that I can think of when invited to join up with BROC, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission. I sit at the big table of several smaller tables placed end-to-end with friends now of several years, people I respect as high as I can respect anybody. Every one of them is the kind of people I'm glad to have in my life. It warms my heart to be among them.

From the Kanpai I drove to the library to pick up the new painting of Jr I'd put in the library for a month. I wanted people who knew Jr to have a chance to see it. It's part of my ongoing campaign to keep his name alive in the memories of people who knew him. I told him some time before his mind went away that he will not be forgotten in his county. I spoke with Doug at the desk for awhile, waiting for the suicide bereavement meeting to be over. I went in after seeing Bob Bamberg come out, and saw Julia Simmons, Mrs Santa Claus, an English woman here from King, NC. She's light-hearted and lively, involved in this and that, very involved. Her husband plays Santa Claus in stores and around. She was doing something about how to deal with losing a loved one to suicide. I'm sure it would have been interesting, but I don't fall into that category. I've known people who have done it, but not close enough to give me trauma. I like Julia and we hugged. Norma Richardson was there. I gave her a hug for all she'd been through. What she has been through would take a big, long book to tell. I only know a teaspoon of the ocean of her life, but what little I know gives me a great big respect for the whole human being she is. Norma is one of the people in my world I hold way high up, and not unrealistically. Saw Kate Irwin on the way out, another woman I respect way up high, stopped and visited with her awhile. When I see Kate I feel tremendous respect.

On the way home I stopped next door to show Allan the painting of Jr. Wednesday is his day off. We visited a few minutes, talked about one thing and another. I came home and took a nap. Full day in just a few hours. Good feeling day all the way along. Sartre said hell is other people. I say heaven can be other people too.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


jim dine, pinocchio

I woke this morning to news that fourteen or seventeen or however-many states have republicans in them running petitions to gather signatures to secede from the Union. Texas, of course, leads the lemming charge. It's just republicans calling attention to themselves. A state is not going to secede from the union because a few thousand wingnuts sign a petition. If the people signing the petition were serious, they'd move to Texas or Arizona, states that have already seceded in spirit. Both states have oppressed Latin populations. The racist wingnuts hate "Mexicans" the same as they hate black people. I suppose if Texas secedes over racism, the next step will be to banish the Latin population to make Texas fit for teabaggers. Why bother all the other people in states the petitioners want to secede? Teabaggers are a minority. If they're really committed, they'll move to Texas. If they don't move to Texas, they're not committed. The wingnuts are just making noise for the sake of making noise. As usual. The ruse that the wingnuts were leaving the country after losing the election fell through right away when nobody left the country. Now they're talking something they cannot do, secede, so they can make more noise about the government not allowing a few thousand cement-heads to manipulate states of multiple millions.

We'll be hearing this nonsense for weeks to come. I'm recalling the last time Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door several years ago. A man and a woman handed me a Watchtower. I handed it back and told them they really don't want to give it to me. Giving it to me is the same as throwing it in the trash, because the trash is my next stop. They wanted me to take a little book that proves something or other I'm not interested in. I declined. Then they had a bigger book, not in thickness, with a lot of pictures in it. They flipped through it showing me the pictures. They asked, "What does this look like to you?" I said, "A children's book." They explained that the average American has the reading level of a fourth grader. I said, "I'm not average. I read adult books." A glaze came over their eyes as they imagined me with a houseful of porn, a bad sinner. I didn't bother to explain I was not talking about XXX adult reading, but adult reading they, themselves, could not read because they were of the fourth grade level they were calling average.

I think of Jehovah's Witnesses an abuse of freedoms. They have the freedom to knock on my door at will and bore me with their agenda. I have the freedom to close my own door in their faces. The very worst was a Christmas visitation, a man and a woman who were not married and a boy of about ten, playing family. I knew the man and knew this was not his child or his wife. I hated to close my door in his face, but he had crossed the line. No matter who you are, come to my door as a JW and the door will close in yer face. I hang up on telemarketers the moment I find out what it is. I regard JW behavior of knocking on my door to tell me about their belief system simply rude. I give them rude back. A time before these people came to the door pushing their books, a white-haired JW man started reading Bible verses to me. I interrupted him and told him since he came to my house, it's my place to tell him about my belief system. He ran. The couple with the books were the last JWs to stop at this intractable old turd's house.

My neighbor Allan used to work for a man I could not work for. He made me so furious I walked off the job and never went back. He believed employees were about being cussed at. He lit into Allan one day with a string of words. Allan lit into him with his own string of words. Boss said, "You can't talk to me like that!" Allan said, "When you talk to me like that, I talk to you like that." You don't want to hear it, don't put it out in the air to be heard. I about fell over backwards when Allan told me the boss never cussed him again. I said, "It was that easy!" I laughed. I'd made a big issue of it, I Quit By God! All I had to do was cuss him back. However, Allan and I are not temperamented alike. Somebody gets in my face cussing, I get so wound up inside I need to exit myself or something untoward might happen. That's the hillbilly half of my blood. Somebody believes he has the right to give me a cussing, I believe I have the right to do whatever happens next.

I hope these teabagger monkeys swinging through the trees in Karl Rove's mind understand when they call the rest of us unacceptable, the return is that we find the teabaggers unacceptable. So the teabaggers have guns. The rest of us have guns. They've already shown repeatedly they have no concept that everything-comes-back. After 32 years of systematic republican attempts to shut down the democrat party, they've imploded. I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you. Now they're wanting to secede, which they know is not possible, a few thousand from each state. It tells me they're not serious. It's the same as playing a kazoo, the clown's instrument. Something to keep the Fox channel on the air: a secession movement, big drama. Like I said, if they were serious, they'd move to Texas and root for the Cowboys, a team that, alas, happens to have an awful lot of black cats on the playing field. What's the world coming to? Like it was said among white folks in 1956 when white teenagers were listening to Little Richard and Chuck Berry, "The niggers are takin over." I laughed then. I laugh now. Half a century of that fear growing and growing and what do we get? A deceptive tv channel that goes by the name fox.


Monday, November 12, 2012


chief propagandist

The Absurdist comic-tragedy of this time has erupted again, boiling over the edge of the pot and sizzling on the electric burner. The only thing the republicans showed us in the campaign was ignorance and lies. The last few days the repubs have been blaming-blaming, every reason they can think up, like in the manner they ran the campaign with every lie they could make up. The one point they haven't yet touched, or at least publicly, is that white Americans are not all racists. They were counting on all white Americans being racists and it didn't work out that way. I laugh when I see their befuddled faces and their lame fantasies of why a campaign of only lies failed. It has worked for Rove twenty-some years. Alas, a little too consistently. His opposition strategists finally caught onto his ways and figured out how to counter him. It felt good to see Rove shut down. Obama has talked about a divide in the repub party that I saw created in the attempt to shut down the democrat party. The democrats stayed back, gathered their strength, honed their strategies and gave the child's riposte, I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you. That's kindergarten for karma. Repubs in their willful ignorance fooled themselves. And by republican definition, by a landslide. LOL

Talking with a friend earlier in the day, she brought up the possibility this might be the end of KKK and a gaggle of other racist points of view, but I had a hard time seeing it having that great a sweep. It might signal the beginning of a process that could lead to their end. That's more in the spirit she meant it, the kick-off. It's far from over and done. We have passed the point in population where people of color now outnumber white people and white people are scared. Some white people. After this campaign that was overtly racist in ways never mentioned but understood front and center, it appears the racism the repubs were whipping into a lather went nowhere, even worked against them. Florida, the dirty tricks capital of the Red States, said no to racism. Adamant CEOs are swearing they'll cut back on employees because we got a president sympathetic to the people again. Who gives a shit? Only the people getting fired, but it's all PR bluff anyway. Nobody is getting fired. Like the right wing exodus that has not yet happened. Going by human nature, I laugh that the CEOs sending memos to their staffs warning against voting for the basketball playing president more than likely inspired low-level execs and mail room employees to vote for Obama more than for Romney. It's our nature to do the opposite of what we're told, esp in the case of a secret ballot. Though it's also our nature to obey.

I thought when the election was over it would be over, but the republican pity party goes on. The surprise evidently took the wind out of their sails, took their breath away. I see them like a dog licking itself after a fight. Obama brought Anderson Silva to mind, his smooth, quick moves. The election results were like the surprise kick to the chin Silva brought Vitor Belfort down with. The republican machine was spinning so many lies that the lies spun in with the non-lies until a tapestry was woven that told a fiction based on true events. In the end, we can't find what is true in the story and what is not. So we either believe the story or don't believe the story. I've been wondering for a number of years how republicans can switch off good sense like religionists. I suppose it's the same as religionism, a belief system they vow themselves to. It looks like the lock-step attempt to shut down the democrats by organized belief systems went to its absurdist extreme and the repubs became satires of themselves. Like the quote from Wm Casey, CIA director under Reagan, 'We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American people believe is false.' It is half way complete. The republican half of the population believes it.

The relief at the end of this election was such that I've never felt after an election. It's always a relief for me when a republican is defeated. This election was not about issues. This one was straight out racism, The White Man's Last Stand: The Sequel To The Sequel. I felt like the results of the election would be a measure of racism in America, where it stands. Whiteness wasn't enough to get 51% of the vote anymore. I heard something about Texas seceding. I hope they do. However, it's just more big-man talk, sentences that start or end, By God! The relief for me is that the dark cabal has been voted out of power. All the power they have left is disruptive power, which they can do in abundance with demonic will. The repubs are looking at becoming irrelevant. Like one of their "pundits" said, America aint what it used to be. Racism is on the wane. It's a new day.


Sunday, November 11, 2012


jim dine, tomatoes 1974

A notice by email today from high school class about a hall of fame, a list of names unfamiliar to me. I went to high school at North in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita is an island in the vast sea of Kansas prairie. It's a couple hundred miles by road (bridge) to anyplace you can set foot. Parents moved to Wichita when I was beginning the 10th grade. The week before we moved from Kansas City, the news told about a 19 yr old guy in Wichita killed by bikers (1957). I was thinking: Thanks, daddy, just where I don't want to go. It happened only about a mile from the house we were moving into. That was my first impression of Wichita. After landing there, I thought it was the ugliest place on earth. I despised it from the first day because it took me away from my life where I knew everybody and locked me down in a place where I knew nobody. Even the church was worse. I had a real respect for the preacher in the KC church, but respect for the preacher in Wichita diminished as time went by until he threw what respect I had down the toilet. He is someone I'd prefer to forget, but he hangs on in my memory as the mf'er who betrayed my trust unforgivably. I still have a grain of sand in my heart for the memory of him. I don't even care what his justifications were, my contempt for him as a human being is unparalleled by anyone else I have ever known. I don't wish anything on him for punishment other than what came back to him for the betrayal. I'm sure something bounced back to him. I don't care what.

Strangely, that's the first memory to pop up when Wichita comes to mind. I kind of had a little bit of an urge to go to the 50th class reunion. But I went to the 30th college reunion and regretted it, because I didn't know anybody. I read names of high school classmates and only about three do I recognize. It would have cost about $1500 to go, a thousand of it gas. I didn't have the money and wasn't about to borrow it, knowing in advance it would not be worth the expense. I'd rather spend that kind of money on a piece of art. It would have meant standing around with a plastic cup and a paper napkin in my hand with probably gingerale in the cup, "glass," whatever it's called, running my mouth with somebody I don't know, everybody dressed up, a couples party, everybody acting like their parents they swore they'd never be like, everybody grandparents with adorable great grandbabies. I would feel like I'd died and went to the Ozzie & Harriet Show. Ozzie and Harriet were 1950s America like Beavis and Butthead were 1980s America, the grandchildren of Ozzie and Harriet. Their son died free-basing cocaine in a private plane.

The letterhead from Wichita North said at the bottom, "Once a Redskin, always a Redskin." I had to double-take. After all these years of political correctness, they're still hanging onto Redskin. Back before that kind of "awareness," which is the wrong word to use where PC is concerned--PC is unawareness, Parrot Chatter--redskins meant Indians to me. I was caught up inside with the Indians, sympathetic with them. Couldn't talk about it much, because all the white guys around me were sympathetic with the US Army killing Indians. Indians were the enemy. Over years of knowing people, I've come to suspect that ones who are Civil War buffs participated in the Civil War a few lifetimes ago. I have been an Indian buff all my life, leading me to believe I was likely involved in the Indian Wars on the Indian side. I have no interest in the Civil War except as an historical force in the evolution of the nation. But I'm deeply interested in the stories of the Indians.

There was a time I wanted to possibly teach at a school on a reservation, do some kind of work to benefit the people in the concentration camps called reservations. I felt like my white people were the ones making it so hard for the Indian people that I was drawn to do something to help people on reservations. But I also came to realize that I did not know what would benefit them, and surely would end up doing the opposite of benefiting them, as presumption from outsiders always does. Among them I would be a representative of the white world, no matter what I was like inside and my motivation, and I'd be feeling apologetic about context I had nothing to do with. At least living in the white world I don't represent the white world. In Kansas I felt like all the ground was Indian land taken from them. It almost was like walking on a grave for me. To some extent, I feel that way here in the Southern Appalachian mountains. It's difficult for me not to feel sorrow for the genocide of an entire continent of people, the survivors kept in concentration camps over a century with FBI for reservation police. I have a problem with being part of the whiteness that keeps these people incarcerated in the worst kind of poverty. I applaud casinos on reservations, white people giving their money to the Indians.

Once a redskin, always a redskin ran through me as a minor quake. In high school I did not miss the irony of killing off the Indians, then naming places after them, like Wichita. That's not an English name like Wellington Chase. I was told once what Wichita meant in Indian language, but didn't want to know and forgot it right away. Out there on the prairie in Kansas I imagined herds of buffalo horizon to horizon in all directions. I imagined arrows flying through the air. I imagined riding a horse full tilt inside the buffalo herd. It was Indian country for me. I felt like the cities and towns in that prairie were a travesty. The buffalo kill-off and the Indian kill-off, both so incredibly without conscience, inspired a streak of shame through my whiteness. I wear my white skin without pride. It's for the way my race historically has regarded everyone of any color. I am not one to believe the privilege of race is legitimate. So I've never used it, that I know of. I can't solve any of those big racial issues beyond myself. Inside myself I can be as I am and it doesn't have to be political. I've come to see that if I, an individual of any race, this time white, regard everyone I come in contact with, of any race, even my own, with basic human respect, that's what all the movements are about. In myself I can handle that part easily. It's an individual thing for everyone concerned. For myself, I like the Buddhist principle, do no harm.

Friday, November 9, 2012


It does my heart good to see and hear all the post-election republican rant about the country coming to an end under the nigger. It's funny how the big-mouths of fantasy became so self-absorbed they lost touch with everything but their agenda. Cement-heads were bragging they would leave the country if the nigger won again. I've neither seen nor heard of a mass right-wing exodus to---where would they go? Australia is far too liberal for them. Australia has healthcare and other benefits to the people of the land the American wingnuts don't want us to have. They can't go to Israel. Too many Jews. Africa is completely not a consideration. Too many Mohammedan niggers. South America is too Catholic. Austria might be a good place for them. Romania might be good. Albania might be best for them. However, Albania has too many poor people. The American right hates the poor. Europe is off limits. Too liberal. Socialist. Russia and China won't have them. Maybe Arizona is the place. Glen Beck has been telling wingnuts who live among too many liberals to move to a place where it's all republicans. That must be Arizona. Good. Let's hope they all move to Arizona. Then we can flush Arizona into Mexico. When they want to come back we can oppress them as illegal aliens and ship them back to Mexico. Solved.

During the campaign season I wearied of the bullshit from the wingnuts hoping it would die down when the election was over. Now we're hearing continual pity-party of how terrible it is we're sinking fast, the Titanic hit the iceberg again, aint it awful. I need to rethink. I need to quit listening to the news altogether. I was talking with a friend today about something entirely different, but came to note there are certain idiocies going about in the world we don't want in our minds. I don't even listen to Limbaugh to hear what idiocy Karl Rove has him harping on any given day, not even curious to hear it. I don't want his bowel movements in my head. Ann Coulter. She is the living model of all the blond jokes. If I were ever to have reason to be near her cubicle at Fox, I would need to sneak a look at her monitor to see if it might indeed be speckled with white-out splotches. The election brought these people I tend to ignore front and center where they can't be missed. Sometimes I pay attention for the laugh. Unfortunately, the laugh is of derision not humor. I remind myself that these people are the same as a disease---in their cases, syphilis of the mind. I don't want the defecation from their mouths in my mind. They keep me reminded that half the people are below average intelligence. Evidently, the half that votes republican.

Earlier, I read an interesting article assessing the election. The writer had what seemed to me a balanced perspective, but we slightly disagreed at the end. His solution was to get more women candidates and race candidates from the repub party. Sure. Ten Clarence Thomases running for governor all over the country? Ten Phyllis Shlafleys running for Senate? Another Bachman and another Palin? Even one is too many. Republicans are such parrots why not have a bird show for election; vote for the prettiest parrot. I hear the "pundits" talk like Romney really did have a "plan" for this and for that. All I ever heard concerning his plans was a change of subject, attacking Obama for something so ridiculous even republicans laugh, jabbering nonsense. He was the Ken doll of American whiteness. Quintessential white man. Hair cut like he goes to a barber shop once a week. Lies like a white man. Romney was whiteness itself. It's wonderful having him in the past. Yet we still hear of him, like having a website up and running for his acceptance of presidency. I'm glad Karl Rove finally lost. I love it that Ted Nugent identified with his brother in spirit, Donald Trump, calling for revolution and generally being republicans. To take either one of them seriously would be the same as having a bumper sticker that says Nuke Iran.

I was asked yesterday if the election went to suit me. The only answer I gave was, "Some of it did. Some of it didn't." I didn't even ask the same question in return. What didn't suit me was the repubs still have Congress. What did suit me was Obama winning. From the beginning, I've been happy to have a black man for president. You say he's half white, but in America if you have 1/16th black blood, you're black. I've been for black equality with whites since childhood when I knew a few black kids and found them to be people just like me and all the white people of my world. I'm especially glad for Obama's win that young black people are inspired by him. Not necessarily to be another black president, but to have the boost of self-esteem to see that a black man can succeed at his own dream. I realize Obama hasn't done anything visible to help the black people, but I also realize he gets opposition from the repubs for even promoting white interests. They'd crucify him if he were to start taking an interest in black people. We'll see what happens second term. It's a certainty the republicans will obstruct and say no, then blame the democrats for not compromising. The republican reaction to Obama's second term will be a repeat of the first: get the nigger. At least Obama's victory was by such a margin even Rove had to concede. Rove's mind has been the worst influence in American politics in my lifetime, right down there with the Alzheimer president, marching us, a calculated step at a time, toward civil war. Divide and conquer has been their strategy and it has worked very well.

I have to say I'm glad to have lived to see a second term for Obama. I like him as a president and I like him as a man. I like him as a diplomat. People all over the world respect him and respect USA for having an intelligent man for president. They know better than we do how fortunate the entire world is to have Obama representing USA to the world. Not all the rest of the world is white. The rest of the world knows the white American venality toward people of any color. The very oddest thing I've seen is that the republican party has become overtly seditious. Rupert Murdoch keeps that one stirred up with his divisive journalism. He has killed every publication bought for his empire. All my life USA has bragged on itself (patriotism) about democracy and money. We have no more democracy and the Bank has taken our money. It's time for me to stop listening to the news for awhile. The wingnuts will be making drama as much as they can about losing, about the Titanic sinking and woe on nigger-lovers. They'll make losing into winning. In a short time it will be that voting machines were rigged by democrats. I'm glad Obama won, primarily because he appears to me to represent us well internationally and he throws us a bone from time to time, even acts like he takes an interest in our well-being. I like too that he is a sharp stick in the republican dixiecrat eye.


Thursday, November 8, 2012


wayne thiebaud

What a good day it has been getting the car upgraded in the morning with new tires, new plugs, new oil. The Catfish has been a pleasure to drive. Immediately after each one of those improvements the car feels better. All three at once made the drive afterward into some kind of heavenly transport, smooth all the way around. I think of the song by Queen, I'm In Love With My Car. I do love my car. 93 Buick Century with the 3300 v-6, an engine classic as the Nova slant-6 that has outlived the car bodies and continues as water pumps in undeveloped parts of the world. This 3300 I'm driving uses little to no oil, maybe half a quart in 3000 miles. My mechanic, Chuck Billings in Glade Valley, keeps it running smoothly. I told him the engine is running just short of perfectly; the occasional miss and the last time I pushed the gas pedal to the floor to pass somebody, it hesitated. I didn't like that. When he took out the plugs, he found the one that was bad. We replaced them all. I like having new plugs and good wires.

The Catfish is now running perfectly again. It felt so good on the road going home, I patted it on the dash and said, "Thank you, my friend." I love driving a car that runs as good as a brand new car, and making no payments. It's so old that replacement parts don't cost a whole lot. With all the clearcoat on the hood, top and trunklid flaked off, a couple of rust places, a couple of little dents, it is a car nobody would steal. I could leave the keys in it and never have a problem, even in Miami. I don't, but could. It's all go and no show. It would make a good car for a smuggler; it's so plain it's invisible. I love its design. It's one of the more beautiful car designs before they all started looking like they were made for wind tunnels---the F15 and the Stealth look. On the drive to Justin's house, on Little Pine Church Road, I see an Oldsmobile of the same period, a classic car body. The owner, like me, can't afford to doll it up with new paint and new trim, but he keeps it well and I have a strong suspicion he appreciates its style same as I appreciate my Buick's body style. It was a beautiful car design when it was new and it is now. I'd really like to lower the Catfish about 4 inches all the way around, but that would not be practical on mountain roads in snow and mud. For that it needs raised about 4 inches. It tells its age, but it doesn't date. It's what might be called a classic design. In my mind's eye I see it flawless and painted a lacquer gunmetal blue, no trim or words on it, just the design itself with chrome grille and red taillight all the way across the back.

Remembering back when I drove the 78 Toyota pickup I named Zen Zero. I called it a Zero because when I bought it the entire interior was stripped down to the metal structure, and a big hole in the seat where I sat required a cushion in it. It reminded me of the Japanese Zeros, the fighter planes of WW2. And I was playing with the O in Zen ink painting too. The driver's door was bad and I replaced it with a red door. The truck was blue. I found a couple of Nissan bucket seats for it that were easy to install, four bolts each. I had a friend at the time, Anna, who drove a Mercedes. One day when I saw her she said, "You still driving that trap?" I said, "I'll race you on the Parkway from Cherry Lane to Laurel Springs at 2 in the morning if you want to see what a trap can do." She could run away from me on an Interstate, but the Parkway's curves don't allow top end. It's like the difference between Talladega and Martinsville in a nascar race. The Toyota pickup had a good center of gravity and ran like a go-cart. Very light weight. On the Parkway the race would be all about maneuvering, and I knew the road a whole lot better than she did. I knew my truck better than she knew her car, too. I didn't say it, however, as a challenge, just using the light humor of exaggeration to say the Zero ran better than it looked. It was then about 12 years old. I loved that truck. Four on the floor and another classic motor, four-cylinder, that outlived the frame and the body.

The news came on the radio just now. Back to hearing about Boner in Congress. I'd hoped against hope the Dems would take the majority in Congress and shut Boner up, expunge his name from the news. McConnell too. But, no good gets done without opposition, so I welcome their opposition. The part I like best about the election results is that it was a sharp stick in the republican eye. Will they go on obstructing? Sure. They've become the New Dixiecrat Party. McConnell is the new Strom Thurmond and Boner the George Wallace. Keepin' the niggers down. Only difference is: the world is watching in the age of hi-tech. The republicans don't care if they're witnessed. After four years of nothing but divisive and disruptive politics, they didn't lose anything by it. Romney lost because he was a non-candidate like McCain. Republicans put Obama in both times by not offering any real opposition, just a couple of hand-puppet parrots. Now Sarah Palin is aghast that "a majority" of Americans would put the nigger in a second time. Donald Trump is calling for revolution. And Bugs Bunny is calling for Daffy Duck to get married in Massachusetts.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Election day today, I stopped by the Whitehead voting place at the Whitehead Community Center that once was the Whitehead School. I've given this vote much thought, not about who to vote for, but whether or not to vote. I see voting since the so-called Patriot Act, the constitution for police state, a sham used to keep we-the-powerless-meat-people believing we still have democracy, to keep the American Fantasy full of hot air. I came to see voting as a social act in the world of people I live among who continue to believe we have democracy, and I see myself wanting democracy back, so I vote to be one digit that says I want democracy. The thought that set me into action more than any other was thinking if I don't vote I've not cancelled a republican vote, meaning I give the republicans one vote I might have cancelled. You see, I'm not a democrat or libertarian or communist or anything organized. I'm a single-digit anti-republican. Democrats are not anti-republican enough to suit me. I vote democrat because they are the only opposition. A vote for a libertarian is a vote for a republican by not adding one more to the count against the republicans.

The election results are coming in now. In an hour or less the West Coast voting establishments will be closed. I don't want to hear this state and that state and the building of the drama. I'll wait til after midnight and see what they're saying. Then wait til morning to get the news that the republicans are calling on the anti-democracy supreme court to nullify the election results and make the losers the winners again. It's what they packed the court with "wingnuts" for. There will have to be some kind of republican chicanery before the counting is over. I saw Mitch McConnell on 60 Minutes Sunday, not because I was interested to hear what he had to say that was totally predictable, but because I wanted to see him talk. I wanted to see his face when he lied and only lied. I saw a tight-lipped smart-mouth pudgy little brat. I looked at him as someone I was meeting the first time, thinking if he were face-to-face talking to me at the coffee shop, I wouldn't believe a word he said and I'd be feeling to see if my billfold was still in my pocket. Another republican parrot. Willful ignorance out in the open, paraded and bragged upon. The image about Fox News above that I found on facebook tells it best of all the "memes" I've seen that are anti-republican, many of them awfully funny.

Yesterday on YouTube I saw that blond airhead "commentator" from Fox talking with Bill Maher. I don't ever see her, because she talks republican parrotry that is too predictable to be entertaining or interesting in any way. She was retarded. She reminded me of the woman I heard on a call to the 911 phone on YouTube wanting the highway department to move the "deer crossing" signs to places with less traffic. Ann Coulter is her name. I had to go to YouTube and look up the video I saw to get her name. Pathetic where intelligence is concerned. She might have passed a lot of tests and done well in school as a robot student, but it certainly shows she never learned a thing about thinking for oneself. She's the blond parrot. She looked like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader gone to seed, and struck me the female counterpart of Rush Limbaugh, propagandists to the gullible. That the press takes Romney seriously and half the population does too, brings to mind every time I think about it, Gore Vidal saying, "When Americans don't recognized stupid, we're out of business." Yes, we are indeed out of business. My concern is that it looks more like Americans do recognize stupid. Stupid is what they want in their representatives, at least half of them. Very odd. Half a century of television.

I'm seeing in this year's electioneering process the republican side with no apparent agenda, anything that comes up, no concern about being called continually on lies, blatant obvious lies. Commentators and the television/radio reporters act like Romney is actually speaking with substance, though they never talk about the substance. In the first "debate" Romney trumped Obama with ignorance, the Karl Rove trump card, absence of substance. It rattled Obama like it was intended by the master propagandist to do. The only reason I can find for why the republicans stood by this obvious serial liar Romney is because he was a white man. Liar identified his character a white man, verifying his allegiance to his skin color. The only republican agenda was get-the-nigger. It went completely unsaid throughout the campaign, and understood by all in the white racist party. In their panic at the point where people of color outnumber white people from here on, I'm seeing White Man prefers racism to democracy. The South turned democracy aside after Emancipation because the black folks outnumbered the white folks. A serious threat. White folks aint having no nigras lording it over them. It aint gonna happen in America. Democracy is not that important. As we have seen.

I refuse to let myself get wound up with worry and hope for something I have no control over. I have seen that willful ignorance is what it takes to vote republican. This year's was the most interesting republican strategy I've ever seen. Obstruction by lies and using lies to catch the other off guard by ambush was the only strategy used. Lies and stupid statements were adhered to all the way along the campaign. Because they are lies and stupid. Lies and stupid made a great strategy against a man whose mind republicans can't out-smart, but Karl Rove knew how to trip him up and keep him off balance as much as possible by surprise attacks of stupid and lies. Romney was the perfect puppet to lie and talk stupid. It showed me that the people siding with these open liars, republicans, do recognize stupid when they see it. Stupid is evidently what they want. Gore Vidal thought Americans didn't want stupid, but it really looks like at least half of them actively want it. Even if Romney doesn't win, it's a really bad show that whatever percentage of votes go to Romney is too high a percentage for comfort. Considering however many people voted republican, we have that many people evidently wanting stupid with a passion. It's alarming even to have more than a handful.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012


barnett newman, achilles

The first of November, Thursday, I went and picked up my friend Melia, and we went to Jr's grave in Whitehead to have a sip of some liquor and pour a sip on the grave for him. This is the third time we've celebrated Jr in this way since he left the body. Melia is Jr's cousin, second or third, but between them it was just cousin. We do feel like he's with us in spirit, hoping he can see through the veil from the other side, see us laughing and talking about him in happy memories. We always are in a laughing spirit when we're there. Jr, himself, was in a laughing spirit in his life. Laughing is part of the memory of Jr. He was a loyal friend and a supportive friend in an encouraging way. He was the only man I've known I can call wise without hesitation. I was about to say I miss his wisdom, but it's him I miss more than his wisdom. Old-time hillbilly tractor mechanic, sawmiller (sawyer), cattle farmer, welder, bluegrass banjo picker on weekends, bulldozer operator, quit school after 11th grade, and pretty much was the "spiritual" hub of Whitehead. I say spiritual because the people of Whitehead respected Jr in a real way, for who he was.

Jr was a neighbor to everyone in Whitehead, neighbor in the way Jesus used the word. He did not go to church, was baptized at age 11, had his own theology he kept to himself. He believed it was all in the Ten Commandments, all the guide he needed. His humility was a good example of mountain humility. Mountain culture has a wide stripe of humility in it, which varies from individual to individual. Jr's was not of the pious church variety of humility. It came from understanding by figuring it out that living humbly is the only way that works in this world, anyway in a world where everybody knows each other. We have a fear that humility equals weakness, when Jr's humility did not. His feet were in place. He had no question of his place in the world. Somebody who might go into his house in the middle of the night would meet him with a gun in his hand he knew how to make go bang. He kept a .22 pistol on the table beside his bed or in the drawer. It wasn't for killing, only for stopping or slowing down whatever threat the other might be. He told me once, he only told anything once, when I asked him who he looked up to, he looked up to everybody. It seemed a bit of a sweeping generalization at first thought, but second thought was Jr never said anything like that he did not mean. Hillbillies don't speak in sweeping statements unless they're trying to convince you of something, which Jr never did, and conscious ones never do.

I've come to believe that Jr came into this lifetime contracted to take the fast lane to wisdom--- suffering. This man has suffered through incidents in his life that came to him out of the blue, not apparently of his karmic making, blows that would drop a rhino to its knees, at least five of them. I'd personally be beat down by any one of them. The first one happened when he was 23, married five years with Maggie, the woman he could have lived happily ever after with. She played guitar and sang, and incidentally was Doc Watson's cousin, back when Doc was Arthel the kid that went blind. Jr's older brother, Welter, older by 30 years, played fiddle. The three of them played dances on weekends. Welter came to the house on Christmas eve, 1945, wants Jr to drive him to his in-laws house in Piney Creek to see his wife and the 4 month old baby. His second and much younger wife had left him and went back to her mother and dad, probably for protection. Jr said he was "too quick with a gun." Maggie said to Jr, "He's drunk. The'll be trouble. It's Christmas Eve. If you go with him, I'm leaving you." He stayed. Welter found somebody else to take him. He shot and killed his wife, shot his father-in-law three times and he survived, cut up his mother-in-law's face, went outside and blew his own head off in the front yard.

When Jr and Mary learned what happened, Jr was so wrecked he told her she won't have to leave him, because he's leaving her. He went to Wytheville and drove a cab for a while, fell in with Theron Stoneman, who knew of good-paying construction work in Toccoa, Georgia. They went there, and from Toccoa Jr went to Decatur, Georgia, then Decatur, Alabama, working good jobs, ending up operating a crane that went 150 feet up. He was gone a couple years until his mother and dad needed help on the farm and asked him to come home. He'd tried to join the Marines, but his feet were flat as duck feet and he was rejected. His next wife, Lois, played bass in his bluegrass band, the Green Mountain Boys. One night they came home from a dance around 1:30 and the house had burned to the ground. A lightning storm had passed through. Some years later, Lois came down with cancer. Trips up and down the mountain to Winston-Salem for chemo, all the agony that goes with it, then she sat down by a maple tree to put an end to her pain that pain-killers no longer subdued. She shot herself in the head, but survived 8 days in Winston-Salem intensive care, Jr sleeping on waiting room couches, out of his mind and totally in his mind too.

In Jr's grief, Spider Woman entered the scene her fingers walking through the obituaries to find a man. In twelve years she went through all Jr's assets; convinced him to sell the family farm because it reminded her of his former wife, and move into a double-wide. He worked into his late 70s at the sawmill through the winters paying her bills. She got him down to his house, his shop, his sawmill and credit card debt so deep she couldn't spend any more on them and couldn't get new cards. One day she said she was going into town and he waited all night on the porch watching the highway for her to return. Next day a U-Haul truck backed up to the front door and a sheriff's car with a deputy telling Jr he needed to take his guns and he was there to protect her from Jr, which amounted to protecting the spider from the fly. She took everything from the house she  wanted and was gone. No good-bye, kiss my ass, ner nothin, as they say. Then she tried to get what property was left for a divorce settlement and get him to pay the credit card debts. Fortunately, the judge saw through her, as everybody in Whitehead already had seen through her before Jr married her. The community of Whitehead pleaded with him not to marry her. She'd already run through one man, exactly-to-the-letter as she did Jr. After doing in Jr, she was no longer welcome in the county. No one had anything to do with her and eventually she left, and died about a year after he did.

It was a year or two after she left that I stopped by the shop to see Jr after not seeing him in several years. While he was married to Spider Woman I stayed away. Like everybody around me, I knew who she was. I felt sorrow for Jr the whole time he was married to her. I was aiming to open a music store and wanted his take on the likelihood of it working. First thing I saw was Jr Maxwell was dragging bottom, depressed unto despair. He asked me to the house for a drink of good mountain liquor. Jr was a literal connoisseur of white lightning and drank only the very best, made by somebody whose recipe went back 4 generations. I saw that Jr was not only depressed, but he was lonesome. He'd ask me to come back next day for another drink and I did, each time keeping him up on the progress toward setting the store in motion. I wanted to help Jr, but learned long ago not to attempt to help in any way that can't be done with my hands, like picking things up, carrying things, fixing things, like that. I don't dare go into psychological counseling, only because I know better. I assessed Jr was lonesome. I thought I could ease the pangs of lonesomeness by visiting him regularly. When the store started, I dropped by every evening on the way home to have a drink with him and hear another two-hour installment of his life story told like leaves falling off a tree, one here, one there, no linear order, just as they fell.

Jr's wisdom came first-hand from experience. He did not read and he stayed away from church. The only second-hand information he got was sitting in the tractor shop talking with somebody who dropped by, gazing out the garage door opening at the cars and trucks going by on the highway, whatever was the new gossip, the cattle market news, timber selling news, the long list of the variety of things men talk about when they get together gabbing. He watched no television and only listened to the radio when bluegrass was on and sometimes country. Only looked at the local paper. One bit of wisdom Jr passed to me, he said his daddy passed to him, I incorporated into my life the moment I heard it, because I already understood it, but not in such clear terms: Stay away from important people. That is what I call sound counsel. I already knew it from my own experience, but had not seen it so clearly put. The moment he told it, I adopted it into my life as a creed. It really is a great insight. All "important" people are self-important. I need say no more. I learned much more than that from Jr, valuable subtle insights into getting through difficult moments in involvements with others. Stay away from important people tattooed on the inside of my forehead is the gift of his wisdom he passed to me, like Elijah leaving Elisha his mantle, though a much lesser version. I miss the lightness of Jr's presence. The night of the morning his spirit left the body, opening the door, stepping out of the car arriving home, a big owl hooted from a tree so nearby I was surprised it had not flown when the car drove up. I heard Jr speaking to me through the owl, thanking me. I hooted back to the owl my own gratitude.

cleve andrews and jr maxwell
by tj worthington

Saturday, November 3, 2012


sitting bull

I've been hearing on the Charlotte FM station advertising recently for something of a workshop on Respect. The talk that goes with it tells that respect is something gone away from society and we need it back. My thought first time I heard it: Hmm, somebody noticed. I have to agree, in the urban world respect is absent and not missed as if it never had been, though in certain circles rappin gangstas kill each other for "disrespect." The workshop situation is for the white middle class, NPR listeners. In the white working class you still find respect. I'm wondering how much the falling away of respect in middle class mind has to do with the fast fade of old institutions in our time where respect was important. As they go away, respect goes with them, evidently. I'm wondering about the absence of community in the suburban middle class, what a sense of community has has to do with respect. I can say that in my own community in the NC mountains, Whitehead immediately and the whole county generally, a great deal of respect is going around. In what is left of mountain culture, an individual is respected for humility, for honesty, for helping others, and of course, for money. Anybody with money is respected everywhere in America, the world. That's part of the appeal for accumulating money, especially in a world where there's little to no respect for anything else.

People know each other in a rural community. A lot of people complain about the gossip and go to cities to get away from gossip, but they find it there too. I've come to see gossip as a kind of glue that keeps a community aware of the different individuals in the community like they're movie stars. In my first years in the mountains listening to Tom Pruitt tell about his life and people he'd known along the way, I noticed he spoke of the people of his community with the same tone of importance that city people talk about tv and movie stars. He spoke of the people in his world the same as people spoke of celebrities where I came from. I saw the people of his telling in my mind a little bit bigger than life. When I met different ones I'd heard him talk about, his brother Millard, for one, I was struck every time by seeing this is just another person, not a celebrity. They kind of shrank in my mind at first, seeing they were not celebrities. That caused me to adjust my own thinking. I came to see, knowing other mountain people of Tom's generation that this is how people talked about each other before radio, movies and tv started bringing celebrities into our lives. Now, we talk about celebrities with respect, and each other with watered down derision for not being celebrities.

I realized that the tone of voice Tom was using when he told about different people of the community was respect. It took me awhile to get there, because it took me awhile to catch on to respect as not only something valid, but important. When we look up to celebrities, we look at all the people around us, and ourselves, as they call us in the News, the ordinary people. Celebs are special and we're ordinary. My parachute landed me in a world where they hadn't caught on yet that celebrities were important and we were ordinary. I was seeing that the people all around me saw each other and themsleves the same kind of important accorded to celebrtities. A few months ago there was a buzz around that Robert Downey Jr had been to a certain country store in the county. Very big deal! It was like somebody came in from Celebrity Planet and wowed the people of Ordinary Planet. I confess, I was was impressed one of my favorite American actors had been in the county. Several people I know wished they could have met him. All I could think was, what would I say? You're really cool, meaning I'm really not.

It's like passing up a chance to meet Ralph Stanley. The people around him say, "He's just a man," which I already know. He's a country boy from the same generation of several people I've known here. His county, Dickenson in SW Virginia, is much like my county, Alleghany in NC, though he's in coal country and I'm not. That is definitely a difference. I've seen him up close a few times at concerts, like when he was at the table autographing for fans. He was the same size and weight, talked like and even walked the same as Tom's brother Millard, the Regular Baptist preacher who had a voice for singing as hauntingly beautful as Ralph Stanley's. I know he's just a man, and I could speak with him on that level. However, at the same time that he's just a man, he's also Ralph Stanley. I'm in awe of Ralph Stanley and believe my respect for the celebrity would obscure the man himself. I still have the sense that celebrities are beyond the ordinary. I hear an interview with artist Robert Motherwell and listen to every word like it's from Truth itself. I hear a local artist I know talking and it's the same as any other "ordinary" person talking. If I knew Motherwell, I would have been hearing just a man instead of the celebrity great artist.

Respect is one of my great learnings from living in mountain culture. There was a time when I believed the white middle class people moving from the suburbs to the exurbs might take an interest in the fact that a really interesting culture is all around them. I would tell new people I'd meet that you can get along very well with any individual of these mountains by treating them with basic human respect. I didn't realize then that respect outside these mountains was waning down to nothing in the middle class. They didn't care. I was flapping my jaws, barking to hear my head roar. Too many times I got a look like, What? I quit making any attempts to make one small step toward easing off the conscious and unconscious disrespect for the mountain people by the intruders. It's an assets point of view, not a cultural point of view. Mountain people have less assets than the people moving in. According to the law of the money and status ladder, you look up, never down. Respect is not a consideration for somebody living in a trailer and working in a factory. How do you respect somebody wearing work boots? How do you respect somebody in a tshirt that says Guns N Roses? Mammon is not a benevolent god, but a god devoid of compassion, love and understanding. I'll go with the god of love and be so poor I have to look up to everybody.

By the latter years of my life I've found my "place" in the world several years ago and I'm happy with it. I'm recalling my friend Jr Maxwell the time I asked him who he looked up to along the way in his life. He said, "I look up to everybody." I felt like I knew what he meant at the time he said it, though after knowing him as years went by, I saw he was not making up something that sounds good for public persona, which I already knew. That kind of thinking was not in him. He did, indeed, look up to everybody. He regarded everyone, low or high, with respectful attention. When you talked to Jr, he heard you. Everyone he knew, he knew for who the individual was, not the what. He respected the man who made big money and bought the biggest house on the highest hill the same as he respected the man working for him at the sawmill who threw all his money away drinking on the weekends. Jr might have thought it heedlessly self-defeating behavior, but he was a man just the same. Jr regarded people he did not trust the same as people he trusted. He recognized you have to watch out for one and you don't have to watch the other. Both are valid human beings deserving at least basic respect for their humanity. Of all my learnings from mountain people I've known, the one characteristic that every one of them embodies is respect. I'm coming to believe respect holds community together, too. I see where there is no community, respect is just a word on a spelling test.